Louisiana port is also considering development of an offshore wind facility.

Lake Charles, Louisiana has been a port of call since the early 1800s for vessels picking up cargoes of Louisiana lumber. The local sawmill and lumber industries saw increased growth after the end of the Civil War, when rebuilding efforts in the South stimulated the demand for lumber. The turn of the 20th century saw a declining lumber industry at the port, in part because sandbars made the Calcasieu River impassable to all but shallow-draft schooners.

Fast forward to 2022, and lumber is now the biggest growth cargo for the Port of Lake Charles. In 2019, the port handled 12,000 cubic meters of lumber. That grew to 111,000 cubic meters in 2020 and 128,000 in 2021.

“We’ve already exceeded 2021’s total this year,” said Therrance Chretien, the cargo and trade development director for the Port of Lake Charles. “We are projecting to handle over 300,000 cubic meters of lumber in our facilities in 2022.”

The Port of Lake Charles takes delivery of a 154-ton-capacity Liebherr mobile harbor crane, replacing a unitdestroyed by Hurricane Laura.

Lumber Shipments

These days, the lumber handled at Lake Charles are imports from Europe. Ultrabulk, a dry bulk and breakbulk operator headquartered in Denmark, began calling on the port in 2020, delivering loads of pine and spruce dimensional lumber from Germany, Austria, Finland, Sweden, and Spain. 

Many of the loads are destined for Home Depot and Lowe’s locations in Louisiana and Texas, while others go to distribution centers throughout the country. “Demand for the lumber is mostly in the residential sector,” said Chretien. Ultrabulk has increased the numbers of its customers bringing lumber into Lake Charles from five to eight since it began calling on the port, he added.

The Port of Lake Charles is challenged to handle the growth in breakbulk cargoes because Hurricane Laura destroyed half of its 900,000 square feet of warehousing capacity in 2021. The port has started to replace some of that lost capacity by putting up two tension fabric buildings totaling 100,000 square feet.

“We hope to have those up and running by September of this year,” said Chretien.

Other breakbulk growth areas for the Port of Lake Charles have been in structural steel and rubber shipments. A recent shipment saw 10,000 cubic meters of steel going to Israel. “We expect to be handling two more structural steel shipments by the end of the year,” said Chretien. And, in a first for the port, a nearby Firestone plant loaded a breakbulk ship with synthetic rubber destined for customers in Spain and Poland.

The future of breakbulk at Lake Charles could include development of an offshore wind port. The port handled several shipments of wind blades and power components between 2019 and 2021. So far this year, however, there has been no action on that front. Tax credits for new offshore wind projects expired at the end of last year, which may account for the lack of activity.…

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